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From Chaos to Calm: How Music Can Support Emotional Health

What does calm mean to you?

The experience of calm supports your health and wellbeing in so many ways! We usually associate calm with an emotional response. It is also a physical response.

standing by a mountain lakeWhen you are in a calm state, your heartbeat slows down, lowering your blood pressure. As your heartbeat slows down, so does your breathing and brainwave state. Your muscles relax. A ‘neural cocktail’ of hormones enters your nervous system like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and hormones that support your immune system and overall wellbeing.

So, how can you create this wonderful state in a hectic life? Your natural wiring for sound makes it almost automatic! To find out more about how deeply every part of you is wired to respond to sound, please Click Here for Wired for Sound:

Have you ever wondered how people can remember the name of a song in seconds? Radio stations host all kinds of contests where the fastest caller gets the prize.

Experiments in the field of neuroscience have found that many of us can do this in a fraction of a second to two seconds. That’s remarkable! Yet your brain is wired to do this.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Have you ever listened to a song and it brought you right back to when you first experienced it? It might have been a special moment with a boyfriend or girlfriend. So many couples choose a favorite song. Hearing it takes them right back to the moment when they declared the song as their favorite.

Think about some of your favorite songs from your past. I have a bunch of them. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” recorded by Glenn Miller and his big band brings me right back to my childhood with my parents singing and dancing around the living room.

My mom used to sing all kinds of songs during long car trips. “One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater” got us through some pretty long stretches. It always brings me back to the fun we had as kids singing with Mom. You have to ‘Google’ that song to believe it! “Twist and Shout” will bring me right back to school dances as a teen and I just can’t sit still for that one!

Every one of us has a long list of these songs. Remember, your emotional response to the memories triggered by the song also has a physical response. This physical response includes that ‘neural cocktail’ of hormones that I mentioned earlier.

Three Tips for a ‘Create Calm’ Playlist

Finding the songs or sounds that create a sense of calm or tranquility can be a bit more challenging. Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Good Memories

Make a list of the songs or sounds that remind you of a calm state of being. These reminders will recreate the emotional and physical state of calm in your being.

It might be a lullaby you heard as a young child. It might be the feeling and sound of ocean waves on a family vacation. Or a hike through a beautiful forest and all the sounds around you that created a sense of tranquility and calm.

If you have difficulty recovering some of these memories, then create a new musical or sound memory with the right sound for you. What are your favorite sounds or music that will take you to that tranquil place?

One of my favorite sounds of all is wind chimes. I find their sounds so beautiful. Over the years, I have been blessed with gifts of so many different kinds of chimes from family, special friends and students. Every one of them is treasured. Some of them have also found a place in my recordings.

2. Tune in to Your Heart

Your heartbeat is affected by the beat of the music. This takes about five minutes. Your altered heartbeat then affects your breathing rhythm and your brainwave state. These three systems are intimately connected. When you affect one of them, you affect all three.

This leads to two principles to keep in mind when you want to use music or sound for your health:

2 principlesPrinciple 1. Low frequency sounds and slow rhythms tend to discharge excess nervous energy, like stress, from your nervous system. When you have had a really tough day, reach for sounds that discharge that energy and create more relaxation, slow rhythms and deep bass.

Principle 2. High frequency sounds and fast rhythms charge the nervous system. When you need to stay more alert reach for higher frequencies, like flute, clarinet or birdsong, and faster rhythms.

A relaxed heartbeat ranges between 50 to 70 beats per minute. To put this in perspective, 60 beats per minute is one beat per second. Most people already know what music in their collection to play to settle down or calm down. Gather these songs together into a playlist to play in the background when you need to shift into calm.

3. Tune in to Nature

Three of the healthiest sounds that there are for the human being are water, birdsong and wind.

Johnson Canyon, AlbertaThe low sounds within water calm your nervous system, slow down your heartbeat lowering blood pressure, slow down your breathing and create a shift in brainwave state to the alpha state. A calming relaxation response.

Birds will stop singing if there is danger nearby. As our human family evolved in nature, birdsong always made us feel safe. We learned to listen for when the birds stopped singing. That’s what told us that danger was near.

In addition to helping us to feeling safe, birdsong consists of high sounds, which charges the nervous system. Also, you never know when a bird is going to sing. Their songs are totally unpredictable.

Your brain loves patterns and constantly looks for them. But the brain can’t find any patterns in birdsong. So the result is, the brain becomes alert, focused and productive.

Wind helps to give you your bearings. It helps you to predict the weather, warning you of an impending storm or allowing you to bask in the gentle sounds of a light summer breeze rustling the leaves of the trees.

I encourage you to explore sounds that can take you to that tranquil and calm place. When you find one or two or more, keep them close to you. Upload them to your phone. Use them whenever you need a moment of ‘ahhhh.’ It can completely shift your day.

For more tips to help you integrate self care into your day, click below to download our Self Care Guide.

Download the Self Care Guide

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